Rushville Republican

May 16, 2013

Ward: My early years

Bill Ward
Rushville Republican

RUSHVILLE — There are a lot of things from my youth that I treasure and would not be unhappy to have them back again. Don’t laugh, but BB Bats are one thing I loved as a child. They were a taffy like substance stuck on a stick. They cost a whole one cent each and came in vanilla, chocolate and strawberry flavors. They were delicious and, best of all, hard as all get out. My favorite procurement place was Bussell’s Grocery on 11th Street. Bussell’s had the best candy selection in town. The next best was the grocery on Seventh and Main. I forget the older husband and wife that ran it. The Durbin for dinner or lunch was also high on my list. When I was with Dad during the summer we would have breakfast at the Arcade and they had the best pancakes around. For lunch a lot of the time Dad and I would go to the Elks Club, which was right behind his shop. We would order a sandwich and Dad would give me a handful of nickels. He would then go with his buddies and I would proceed to lose all his nickels in the closest slot machine, of which there were many available.

Wilhelms was another good eating place at First Street and Main. They were a lot like the Park Restaurant of the day. My favorite store downtown was Ben Franklin or Danners, both five and ten stores. I loved fountain Cokes and especially enjoyed just drinking the carbonated water used to make those fountain drinks. Ice cream was a dime a scoop and if I managed to get Dad to pop for a two scoop cone I was in heaven. Cokes were usually from a vendor which were all over town and cost a dime for a 9 ounce bottle of the beverage. Cigarettes were in vending machines everywhere you went and the cost was a quarter a pack. Most restrooms had cigarette vendors readily available. I remember the Durbin had one in the area used for the bus depot. All the gas stations and restaurants had machines too. It was not only fashionable to smoke but the cigarettes were more than readily available. Of course, being caught in school smoking or by your parents at home was sudden death from C J Sellers or my parents.

It seemed we had a gas station on every corner downtown and around town. There was Bill Caldwell’s Sinclair at Eighth and Main, Pure, Sonoco, Hoosier Pete, Standard, Shell, Phillip’s 66 and Green tire are some that come to mind. I loved the two summers we had a bus service in Rushville. I could ride all day for a quarter and got to know the driver quite well. I would get on downtown and ride with him all around town for the whole day. Things were considerably quieter and less stressful at this time.

Thinking about gas stations, all were full service; they cleaned your windows, checked tire pressure, checked your oil and filled your tank for you. And the best part of all, this was gas at a quarter a gallon (not enough for the local tax per gallon today). Gas stations in my later years were also where one could purchase condoms, from under the counter, when needed. Machines again were available next to the cigarette machine in the men’s rest room. I always thought that the combination was rather interesting. In the summer, Gibson Grocery on Main around Seventh and Eighth had a huge galvanized cattle watering tank out front filled with water, ice (huge chunks of ice), Cokes and the most delicious watermelons around. I always felt ice made cokes and watermelons much cooler than anything mechanical.

Ice, when I was really young, was still a commodity used by many. My grandmother Abernathy had a true ice box. She would place the cardboard sign signifying the amount of ice she needed in the window and the ice truck would stop, chip out the amount and then take the cube of 25, 50, 75 or 100 pounds to the house. The delivery man had a leather vest like garment that fit over his shoulders and down his front. He would take a huge pair of tongs and an ice pick so he could chop up the ice cube further if needed. All the huge ice cubes were usually 100 pounds and were scored to show where to use the ice pick to get the correct size. This is also where I gained my habit of eating ice and enjoying it. The delivery guy would give the children of the neighborhood the chips of ice from his chopping away on the large block. Each truck had a door in the top and they would, at the ice plant (Old White Felt Co.) make the ice, store it until needed then drop the large blocks through the door in the top of the closed, insulated bed of the delivery truck.

I truly miss the good old days of neighborliness, less stress and  less complication of my youth. Sure, things were not easy; they weren’t meant to be. The hugely cheaper prices and lower wages just seemed to go together. You make more, it costs you more to live, so why worry? I miss a lot of my old friends, now gone but still remembered. I am amazed at the number of my old buddies that have passed away. Guess this just goes to show that I am getting old (and not too gracefully).